MOOCs: Education Transformation

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What exactly are MOOCs, and why do you need one?

MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses – the new method of learning that might just render the traditional college campus obsolete.

The Millennial CEO on kindleDid you know that the cost of college textbooks has increased at a rate that outpaces healthcare, inflation… and the top speed of most rockets? As The Huffington Post reports, textbook costs have pierced the stratosphere with an 812% increase since the late 70s. And overall college costs continue to outpace even healthcare, as this .pdf report shows.

College costs – and the subsequent ROI on a college education – has become suspect. Students and parents want to make sure that they can access the knowledge that will really make a difference – the kind of practical magic that may or may not be available inside the walls of your favorite institution of higher learning.

MOOCs: Breaking Down the Walls

Magic access? That’s what faculty at Stanford realized, when they introduced an online course in 2011. Designed to address artificial intelligence via an online video platform (based on the power of social media), this free course attracted 160,000 students from around the world. According to Scientific American, over 23,000 actually finished it!
The theory behind MOOCs is a simple one: Wouldn’t it be great if every student had access to the best college professors and college courses? And what if those ideas were accessible 24×7, from anywhere in the world?
MOOCs are here to stay. The nature of education is changing, to embrace this online delivery model. Colleges and universities, like OSU, are on the forefront of distance learning, while MIT and Stanford continue to lead the charge for MOOCs.

What Campus Leaders Need to Know About MOOCs – from Educause (.pdf download)

Consider these insights, from Scientific American:

  • “In 25 years of observing higher education, I’ve never seen anything move this fast” – Stanford sociologist Mitchell Stevens
  • The world will have to construct more than four new 30,000-student-universities per week to accommodate the children who will reach enrollment age by 2025 (source:
  • Harvard researcher Chris Dede says, “Universities think of themselves as being in the university business, not the learning business.” Yet, in a world where customers control your brand, I wonder: what business will students (and parents) pay for?

Will MOOCs replace traditional learning?

Tailor-made for the self-motivated, the MOOC model has some inherent challenges, including:

  1. Personal connection
  2. Accountability
  3. Access to professors
  4. Consistent quality and standards

Chris Westfall at UT DallasAnd there are other concerns that need to be addressed, not the least of which is the paradigm and culture shift already underway at our institutions of higher learning. Current technology still can’t fully replace the classroom.

However, as costs increase, the power of education will shift – it has to – to methods that fit within our technological capabilities. The traditional professorial model is undergoing a transformation – led by the platform of social media, out-of-control costs…and compelling results of current MOOC initiatives.

Where do you think education will be in the next 10 years? How will MOOCs make a difference in the way students learn – and colleges teach?

Look forward your comments!

Cover photo by Saad Faruque used under Creative Commons license.  Some rights reserved.  

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